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Warren Brown
Friday, November 12, 2010; 11:00 AM

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Lome Togo: Need a 4x4: I am looking for a true 4x4. We are being assigned to Lome, Togo. Most of the roads are unpaved and are sand, making it a mess during the rainy season. What would you recommend? We have a Land Rover Discovery in our current assignment in South Africa and love it. How do you rate the LR4 or used LR3?

Warren Brown: In Togo and various other places along the Gulf of Guinea, you are better off with a Toyota or Nissan Suv, both of which are popular there--which means you have something of a service infrastructure in place for those vehicles. Consider the Toyota 4Runner or Nissan Xterra.

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SUV: Or should I really save and go for the 2011 Porsche Cayenne base model. Any other suggestions? I want a mid-sized SUV that can handle any driving terrain (I'm not going to be climbing rocks at an off road park, just normal snow, dirt roads etc.) and has a nice exterior and a GREAT interior.

Warren Brown: Both the 2011 Jeep Cherokee and the Toyota 4Runner can handle any off-road challenge you throw at them. The Jeep Cherokee does it with more creature comforts. And my experience says that the Jeeep Cherokee, 4Runner, Nissan Xterra and Land Rover LR2 will leave the Porsche Cayenne in the mud in off-road travel.

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Mazda MX-5 : I'm considering buying the 2011 Mazda MX-5. How does it stack up against its competition?

Warren Brown: The Mazda Mx-5 (Miata) is the Mazda Miata. It is its own excuse for being, especially the hard top convertible, which is beautiful. You will find other roadsters that are faster, more powerful. But I doubt you'll find one that offers more fun for the money.

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Fusion Sport and Regal Turbo Test Drives?: Did you get a chance to test drive the Ford Fusion Sport or Buick Regal Turbo yet? What were your impressions?

Warren Brown: Not yet. I hope to do that at the LA Auto Show next week.

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new model pros/cons?: Will I be disappointed if I wait for any of these?

Warren Brown: Not anymore. Most car companies, including those mentioned, have rejiggered their vehicle development and manufacturing processes to highlight problems at the begiining and in the middle of development, rather than at the end of the manufacturing line. Computer assisted design and engineering in tandem with closer cooperation among designers, developers, engineers, suppliers and assemblers have eliminated most egregious new-vehicle foul-ups.

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Mazda RX-8: Warren, the Mazda RX8 is a very attractive car with an appealing 2+2 design that can actually hold four people. In addition, it handles like a dream. But the rotary engine produces horsepower only at extremely high revs, has inadequate torque and gets horrendous fuel mileage, to boot. To me, the fuel mileage is a killer, when you factor in the sluggishness of the engine. Why doesn't Mazda admit the rotary is a failure and give this car a 2.0 liter turbo 4-cylinder that provides power and decent fuel economy? Any hope for that?

Warren Brown: Because Mazda does not see the rotary engine as a failure. It's small, compact, relatively simple. The faults you cite are real. But Mazda will keep working on that engine until those problems are fixed. That's just the way Mazda does things.

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Car wheels: Warren, why are car manufacturers making wheels bigger and bigger..18, 19,20, even 22 inch wheels? They don't ride as good and they don't last as long!

Warren Brown: style, sport, performance. Car companies would not make them if people didn't buy them. And as crowds at the recent SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) show in Las Vegas demonstrated, big wheels attract a big audiences, which means they are big, big business.

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Japanese: Convince me to switch to American/Hyundai when I have zero faith in them?

Warren Brown: That's like asking me to get you to believe in God. It's the essence of faith. Either you believe or you don't. Both have consequences and obligations. If you believe that Americans make lousy cars, you suffer the economic consequences, nuclear and extended, of that error in judgment. If you believe that the Japanese make superior cars, you have the obligation of explaining to yourself and to everyone else why Toyota has recalled 15.43-million vehicles worldwide in the last 12 months. I humbly suggest you read The Confessions of St. Augustine and that part of the New Testament that deals with the doubts of St. Thomas and the epiphany of Pentecost. Is it faith if you believe only after touching the wound or, in this case, actually driving an American car? Or, is it something else?

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long trip: Thoughts?

Warren Brown: Freelancing? Writer? Film? Storytelling by one means or another? Heck, drive your jalopy across country. That way, when you finally get to LA, you will have stories to tell and a much better understanding of America.

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Sterling, VA Kia Sorrento: Thank you for your response. Is $8,500 too much to pay for a 2005 Kia Sorrento EX with everything on it and 65,000 miles? It is the original owner. What, if any, precautions should I take driving it (turning corners etc.)? When looking at tires, what numbers tell you the year the tire was manufactured?

Warren Brown: No. That's a good price. Go to CARFAX (taht's CARFAX, not CarMax). Check the VIN (vehicle identification number) for recalls, service bulletins, that sort of thing. Get a mechanic to check it out. Business acts of faith usually turn out better with research.

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Lexus RX450h: We test drove this car and love it. It's expensive, we know that. Your take?

Warren Brown: It's expensive. It's luxurious. But it allows you to burnish your environmental credentials while having a darned good time and without sacrificing one darned thing. It is the motorized version of the rich getting richer. And as the last electionjs showed, many of us find nothing wrong with that.

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Ford Suv: Recent visit to a local Ford Dealer and saw a Ford SUV, Explorer or Expedition with a sticker on the window "Engine made in Germany, Transmission made in France. Could this be true? San Antonio

Warren Brown: someone in Germany looking at the sticker of a BMW or Mercedes-Benz that says "assembled in the United States of America." Global trade. Winners and losers. But it works.

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Need crossover/van for urban family: Hi Warren, I will need a new family car in the next year or so and am not sure if there is anything on the market that meets my needs. I need to seat 5 for family road trips and 6 for carpools. My car must be short enough to find parking every day on the streets of Old Town and DC ( I have no driveway at home) and be very reliable. Our Mazda MPV is all of these things and I'd just get another one if I could. I am not sure why Mazda eliminated this car from their line and didn't replace it with anything comparable. The Mazda 5 is teeny and the CX9 is larger on the outside but smaller on the inside than what I have now. Is there a crossover or some other vehicle that's around 190 inches long that would seat 5-6 comfortably? What's out there for an urban family? I'm submitting my question early because I can't be here for the actual discussion. Thank you for your comments and ideas.

Warren Brown: If you are not unreasonably afraid of the term "minivan," there is the excellent 2011 Honda Odyssey Touring, which will handle all of your needs. Somethin smaller? Try the Toyota Venza. Other eight5-seaters with reasonable ease of parking include the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave. And I'd be remiss not to mention the Ford Edge .

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Bang for buck: Hi Warren!My boyfriend and I are probably looking to replace his car in the next year or so. We live in the DC metro area and he commutes daily with his car. His current car has well over 100,000 miles and is starting to encounter problems now that its around 10 years old. So, we are looking for a fuel efficient, cost efficient small car BUT I don't want to lose storage space. We need to be able to get the most storage space as possible out of a small car. Suggestions? Impossible needs?

Warren Brown: You can pick up the 2010 model for about $300 less.

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Ford vs. Toyota: As a very short person, having a good view over the hood is always a challenge. I have had success and a great linesight renting a Ford Escape (never thought I'd be a Ford fan) and a Toyota Rav-4. They were both great fun to drive...but that was just for a few days. Now it is time to purchase. Which would you recommend? I usually keep a car for about 100,000 miles/10 years.

Warren Brown: also tend to consume more fuel than cars. That being the case, assuming you don't need an SUV, I'd shop for a Ford Fusion Hybrid. You'll be pleasantly surprised--line of sight and everything else.

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Audi v Mercedes: Happy Friday Warren. My wife and I are considering buying a used car. We are considering a 2010 Audi A4 and a 2010 Mercedes C350 Sport. What's your opinion?

Warren Brown: Smooth 2-liter, inline four-cylinder gasoline engine( 211 horsepower, 250 foot-pounds of torque). Direct injection engine with electronically controlled variable valve lift and timing. Runs best on premium. But so does our MINI. Really nice car, which can be bought without much trepidation now that Audi has cleaned up its parts and service act in the Mid-Atlantic region.

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Honda Crosstour: Good Morning!What do you think of this car? I am looking to replace my Saab 900 (I adore it), and am seeking a good alternative. Any other recommendations? Thank you.

Warren Brown: Replace your loveable, quirky Saab 900 with a new Volvo S60. Sort of the same feel. The S60 can even be programmed to stop for pedestrians when you are driving in the city. How quirky is that!?

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Warren Brown: Eat lunch Ria. The Regal will be ready by 3 PM.


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